By Majid Gafoor
Two men turn up for the business meeting of a corporation. One arrives in a Mercedes in a designer suit, checks his gold watch and enters. The other turns up in an old sedan, wears an unassuming suit with no tie and walks in wearing running shoes.
Anyone witnessing this would assume that the first man is an important executive and the other, just an ordinary worker. They would be wrong. The first man is just a minor functionary who has arrived in a leased car and his gold watch is just a fake copy. The other man is the CEO of the company.
This is the Public Relations (PR) perspective.
We process images in our minds and draw conclusions based on those images and believe them to be true. In many cases our conclusions are correct, but today there are professionals whose sole job is to manipulate your conclusions to suit their clients’ needs.
Our sensory perceptions encompass sight, smell, feel, taste and sound. Any of these can be manipulated to lead us to an unconscious conclusion. We enter a supermarket and we pick up various grocery brands and believe we have made personal choices. Instead we are just responding to various advertising on TV, radio, billboards, newspapers etc. which have advocated that certain brands offer you a better deal in one way or another.
Fastfood chains have learnt long ago that certain colors stimulate our emotions. Yellow tends to make us feel cheerful while red gives us a sense of hunger. So they gear their décor along these color lines and presto! We had a nice meal at their establishment without understanding why we chose to go there instead of the one next door.
Many sleep therapies employ music, sounds and/or aromas to induce pleasant images for relaxation. The images are imagined, but feel real enough to lull us into a sense of contentment. Thus the PR perspective has achieved its purpose.
The PR perspective is also made use of for dealing with negatives. If a product or service has damaged public opinion, it is time to launch “PR damage control”.
The first thing to do to head off escalating a bad situation is to admit that something has gone wrong rather than trying to cover it up. The next step is to tell the public that an investigation is underway and the findings will be shared with them. Then the public must be assured that whatever caused the loss of public trust will be immediately corrected.
As a sweetener, the public is offered a chance to try the improved product (or service) at a discount to assure themselves that all is well.
So the next time you step out the door and feel that you are in control of all you survey, keep in mind that there are people out there who know what to do – to set up the PR perspective to lead you to your choices.
Majid Gafoor is a former journalist from Hong Kong. He now lives in Canada.